After the picnics, BBQs, flags and fireworks have ended, Independence Day can remind us – not only Americans – how powerful communication can be.
The Declaration of Independence clearly spends a lot of time describing what the founders wanted to move away from. This is important in all our lives. We need to be able to recognize and declare what we are done with, or don’t want to support or follow – whether that’s a habit, a company, or an elected official.
Our lives are built on agreements – some public, some tacit and silent. One my clients just worked out that he was still acting out of a desire to please his father, even though his father was dead five years and had never actually asked for that. My client had made a tacit agreement he needed to declare his independence from.
We might suggest that the virtual world has given us all many opportunities to share what we are against – perhaps too many. It seems that too many of our screens are filled with what people don’t like or respect, or worse. We’ve been encouraged to become complainers and critics.
But the founding fathers weren’t noisy and agitated (at least in the famous document); they were considered and thoughtful. We could all learn from that. Our hectic world might encourage us to say things we regret later, and can’t now be unsaid.
So, be against something by all means. But try to be respectful enough to gather your thoughts and reasons, so that others can truly hear and understand you. That means they are less likely to react against you in their turn.
And the founding fathers weren’t just against something, they were for something else. They were for a new nation, and a new experiment in government and society. They again took care to describe what it would look like and how it would work. And then they put their John Hancock on it! As individuals, they made their public promise to help make the nation happen: to move from words and ideas on a page to a reality we now live in. (How many of us can spend too much time describing what we don’t like rather than honestly committing to what we do want?)
But there is even more. At the end of the Declaration of Independence, they write:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
In that declaration of mutuality, they were also telling citizens – the text was read aloud or published in newspapers in all 13 state – that this bigger future could only be built together. They didn’t say ‘We’ll take it from here, let us know how we did four years from now.’ They said, we all have a role to play.
In that way, the founders moved the country from independence to co-dependence.
We need to get back to that collective spirit for something, rather than being against anyone and anything. That’s my new book is called Unconditional Communication: Shaping Better Relationships and Bigger Futures – Together.